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The growing threat of AI voice cloning scams

The rapid development of AI and machine learning technologies is fueling a new form of fraud.

By ATB Financial 1 May 2023 3 min read

With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) voice cloning, scammers may now be able to deceive people by impersonating the voices of their friends and family. With just a few seconds of recorded audio of someone’s voice from platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or TikTok, AI-powered algorithms can accurately mimic someone’s voice.  Fraudsters then use the audio to deceive unsuspecting victims.

The widespread use of social media has made it easier for scammers to obtain audio samples than ever before, as users frequently post videos containing their voices, unaware that they may be providing the raw material for voice-cloning scams. Even if a person hasn't posted videos online, scammers can use text-to-speech and AI technologies to create a voice that sounds realistically like a young Albertan woman or older British man, for example, depending on who they’re  trying to impersonate.

The increasing prevalence of voice-cloning scams has raised concerns among cybersecurity experts and law enforcement agencies in Canada and across the globe. They warn that as AI technology becomes more sophisticated and accessible, the risk of this type of fraud will continue to grow. 

Once the scammers have a convincing voice clone, they can call or send voice messages to the target's friends, family or colleagues. Because of the believable-sounding voice, the victim is more likely to trust that their loved one is reaching out. This type of scam is especially dangerous because the victim's emotional connection to the impersonated individual makes it much harder for them to be skeptical, meaning they’re less likely to question the likelihood that the friend or family member would find themselves in the situation described, or seek them out for money.


With AI voice cloning scams on the rise, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones:

Verify the caller's identity.

1. Verify the caller's identity. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a friend or family member in need, take the time to verify their identity. Call them back on the phone number you have for them in your contact list or use another method of communication to confirm their situation.

Keep an eye out for spoofed numbers. 

2. Keep an eye out for spoofed numbers. Scammers can impersonate a trusted source, such as a family member, friend, or a government agency, by forging caller ID information. In other words, the scam call doesn’t show up as an ‘unknown number’, instead it shows up on your phone as coming from a friend or organization you recognize.

This technique can be used along with AI voice cloning scams to make requests seem more convincing. The good news is that while scammers can make calls appear as coming from someone else’s number, they can’t receive calls from someone else’s number, unless they have the person’s phone or have convinced the person’s phone company to transfer their number to another device, which is very difficult to do. If something doesn’t feel right, hang up and call the number for the person to ensure you are not talking to a scammer.

When dealing with unknown numbers, be cautious.

3. When dealing with unknown numbers, be cautious. While mimicking caller ID information is possible, in most cases, scam calls will still come from unknown numbers. Avoid answering calls from unknown numbers. If the call is important, the person will leave a voicemail, and it is easier to assess a caller’s legitimacy if you’re not put on the spot. 

Be wary of urgent requests for money.

4. Be wary of urgent requests for money. Scammers frequently use a sense of urgency to pressure you into making rash, emotion-driven decisions. If a caller demands you immediately send them money, that’s a red flag.  Take a step back and verify their claims before taking any action. If you’re not sure if you’re being scammed, a friend or family member might be able to help you assess the situation.

Be mindful of suspicious payment methods.

5. Be mindful of suspicious payment methods. Scammers frequently request payment methods that are difficult to trace, such as wire transfers, cryptocurrencies, or gift cards. If someone is making an unusual money request and demanding one of these forms of payment (as opposed to a credit card payment or e-transfer), it’s likely a scam.

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